Amblyopia is commonly referred to as lazy eye and occurs when vision in one eye is weaker than the other eye. Over time, the brain begins to ignore images being transmitted from the retina of the weak eye and focuses on those being received from the strong eye. Lazy eye is a common eye problem in early childhood that's characterised by the weak eye wandering instead of focusing on what the other eye is looking at, and this causes impaired vision. There are a number of reasons a child may develop lazy eye, such as corneal scarring, vitamin A deficiency, eye trauma, astigmatism, glaucoma and a family history of the condition. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach:


Lazy eye can cause the following symptoms:

  • Double vision
  • Seeing floaters and flashes
  • Squinting when focusing on an object
  • Clumsiness

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

An optometrist can diagnose lazy eye by checking whether each of your child's eyes can follow a moving light when the other eye is covered. Lazy eye leads to muscle weakness in the affected eye, as the muscles aren't being used as frequently or as fully as those in the strong eye, and this makes it difficult for the eye to track a continuously moving light. The optometrist will also try to establish why your child developed lazy eye, and this involves a full eye exam, which includes using an ophthalmoscope to view the interior structure of the affected eye. This can help them identify underlying eye conditions associated with lazy eye, such as early stage glaucoma, which can be identified by the presence of optic nerve damage.

Once lazy eye is diagnosed, the optometrist will outline a treatment approach with the aim of strengthening the muscles in the affected eye and correcting your child's vision. Treatment may include the following:

An Eye Patch - Covering the stronger eye with a patch will improve the muscle strength in the affected eye. As the uncovered eye will be the only source of images, your child's brain will start recognising images from that eye again.

Eye Drops - Daily eye drops work in a similar way to an eye patch. The drops are placed in the strong eye and make vision in that eye cloudy. This forces the weak eye to engage more fully and is a good option for young children who refuse to keep a patch on.

Glasses - If astigmatism is identified as the cause of lazy eye in your child, the problem can be corrected using glasses with a stronger prescription on one lens.

If your child is experiencing visual disturbances, or if they squint when focusing, schedule an eye test right away to prevent unnecessary discomfort.